Archive for Thursday, February 19, 2009

Head Start reports strides

February 19, 2009

A new curriculum that puts more emphasis on literacy and reading is finding success at the Bonner Springs Head Start preschool program.

Pat Likins, Head Start director, was on hand at Tuesday night’s Bonner Springs-Edwardsville Board of Education meeting to report that progress had been made since the new curriculum was put into practice in fall 2008.

“They’re showing growth,” Likins said of the 3- to 5-year olds who have been attending Head Start during the 2008-2009 school year. “Prior to (the switch), the main emphasis was on social skills. It was just a place to come and have fun, and wasn’t academic. So this is a major change in Head Start.”

Likins said one of the reasons for the switch was a federal law passed in December 2008 that mandated Head Start schools place strong focus on literacy training and make it a major part of the curriculum. But Likins said she also felt it was time for such a change.

“With or without the law, we would have done something this year,” Likins said. “I saw the need for it.”

Within the new curriculum, students are now learning how to say the alphabet and how to recognize letters and colors. They are also being taught how to write their first names and how to recognize a word as a unit of print.

In addition to these language arts skills, students are developing work habits, such as being able to follow two-step directions and attending to tasks independently. Social skills, such as self-confidence and being able to solve problems through the use of language, are still a part of the new curriculum, as well.

Likins’ Tuesday night report included results from two assessments made in the area of color. Her results showed that, out of 29 3-year-olds tested, 11 didn’t know what the color red was when they entered school in the fall. That number dropped down to eight by the winter.

Likins said this new curriculum will help make the transition into kindergarten a lot easier for the students.

“Research tells us that children learn as much from birth to 5 as they do the rest of their lives,” Likins said. “We as a society can’t afford to let this window of opportunity pass us by.”

In other action, the board:

• Heard a new budget forecast from Superintendent Robert Van Maren, who said that Gov. Kathleen Sebelius has vetoed an $88 per-student cut in state aid for this year and is, instead, recommending a $33 per-student cut. He said the district already had an “85 percent handle on” potential cuts.

“But, still, that’s painful,” he said.

• Heard a report by Terry Roberts of Midwest Wind Power on the possible use of wind generation at the schools.

• Heard the bond issue update. Van Maren said the trailer for the concession stand was being finalized and that fundraising for sports will become essential due to budget cuts.

• Heard introductory remarks from three residents running for a position on the Board of Education: Troy Thompson, of Edwardsville, Starla Newberry, of Bonner Springs, and Jeff Tinberg, also of Bonner Springs.

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